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Vermiculite Insulation: Watch out for Asbestos!

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Vermiculite Insulation: Watch out for Asbestos!

Character home? Older neighbourhood? Established community? If these are ways to describe your home, or you're looking to buy an older home, you need to know. Buildings built prior to 1970 may have more than that old charm.

This article is about vermiculite. If you are an avid gardener, you have seen vermiculite in the soil; it is a natural mineral that puffs up when heated. In soil, it absorbs water and slowly releases it back to the roots of the plants between watering. No big deal! Right.

Well, here's what you need to know. From the 1920s to the late 1960s, vermiculite was a very common insulation; it was vermin-proof, fire-proof and a good insulator. Here's the issue. The vast majority of vermiculite used in Saskatchewan was mined from Libby Montana, our closest supplier. What we know now is that mine also had asbestos mixed in it.

So, what's that matter, you ask? If you are doing any renovations to your home that may involve the ceiling, attic, exterior walls, venting, soffits, bath or kitchen exhaust, you need a contractor who understands asbestos or will bring in the experts.

Vermiculite Insulation: Watch out for Asbestos! - Image 1

If you want the character of an older home, or you can only afford to buy in an older neighbourhood, you need to know what kind of insulation is in the home. If the REALTOR® is not aware of vermiculite, you need a new REALTOR®! If the property inspector says, “There's just a bit of it, there’s nothing to worry about,” you need a new inspector.

An independent attic inspection is the best way to identify the true issues. What are the real costs? What are the risks? What can go wrong?

Asbestos in your home can and will fall down the chimney chase, contaminating your air. That's a big deal. Asbestos will fall from your ceiling if you ever have a water leak in the roof. That's a big deal. Asbestos will drop through the wiring pulls in the top of your walls and inside your ceiling lights. That's a big deal. Asbestos can drop around the bathroom and kitchen fans. That's a big deal. We are telling this to the world because we get the calls on a weekly basis: “My home inspector didn't say a thing about that, or the REALTOR® said it’s been there for 70 years and it’s fine!”

What, what, what? If your trusted advisor doesn't bring in the experts, you will not get expert advice.

When the home has any renovations, it will release asbestos into the living space. When you change the light fixtures, install a pot light or have an alarm run through the attic, when you get satellite TV run through the attic, when you install newer windows or get a high-efficient furnace, you affect the building envelope. All of this can release asbestos fibres into your air.

If you are looking at purchasing an older home, ask your REALTOR® and inspector what they know about asbestos. Just because they don't know what it is or what the issues are won't make them bad, but it can cause you to make very poor, very dangerous and very expensive decisions.

There are many ways to deal with asbestos. The worst advice I hear from REALTORS® and inspectors is “Just cover it up! Blowing in more insulation will fix ‘er up.” Nothing can be further from the truth!

Vermiculite Insulation: Watch out for Asbestos! - Image 2

Your inspector should advise you about potential risks and issues in the home. If the issues are not viable that day, that’s like saying the roof isn't leaking on a dry summer day. You need to know about vapour barrier, venting, structure, insulation performance — things that future renovations will open up.

Bottom line: ask your advisors about asbestos. And demand an independent attic inspection; it's always free from Ultimate Insulation - The Attic Experts (mileage will apply if you are out of town) and it may save you huge headaches.

Ultimate Insulation – The Attic Experts are certified asbestos abatement contractors. However, we do not remove or abate asbestos; we rely on local industry leaders to provide this service in conjunction with our service packages.

It’s time to start demanding more from your REALTOR® and your inspector, and protect yourself and your family.


Wade & Joel Murray, owners

Ultimate Insulation – The Attic Experts





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“Ultimate Insulation has just finished extensive attic repairs after condensation resulted in soaked insulation and water dripping from the attic hatch. Wheatland Roofing recommended them and we are glad we followed their advice. Wade was quick to find the problems and offer solutions. The work was professional and the workers friendly and accommodating. We highly recommend this local, family company and have already done so to family and friends. Besides the fantastic work, they really care about the customer and Regina is lucky to have them. Thanks Wade and family!”  —Pat Carlson

Photos Calvin Fehr